APS announced the decision just after 5:00 this morning. Classes are canceled but school offices are to remain open, with essential employees still expected to report to work.
The federal government, meanwhile, is closed this morning, as are Arlington County courts. But Arlington County government will be open, with an unscheduled leave and telework policy for employees. ART buses will operate on a limited schedule.
Snow in Arlington began later than areas west and north, owing to temperatures just above freezing, but all parts of the county appear to have switched from rain to snow by 7:15 a.m.
Arlington County is preparing to launch its new website homepage.
The new website has been in the works for awhile. Based on open source WordPress software, the new system will reduce the cost of development and upkeep, and make it easier for employees to update web pages.
A number of sections of the county’s website have already been updated, including Water and Utilities, Budget, Real Estate, Police, Fire, Sheriff, Voting & Elections and Housing. The homepage, environment page and trash and recycling page are up next.
“We expect the new homepage to go live by the end of the month,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith told ARLnow.com.
A new county-produced video (above) explains some of the changes. Advantages of the new site for residents include a simpler and more mobile friendly interface, better navigation (around topics instead of county departments), fewer links on the homepage and a better search system.
New, easy-to-use features of the site include the ability to quickly find the parks closest to you and finding out whether certain items can be recycled.
Two passengers of a Red Top taxi cab were injured in a three-vehicle collision today.
The crash happened around noon in the southbound lanes of George Mason Drive, in front of the Army National Guard Readiness Center. Initial reports suggest an Arlington County work truck and the Red Top Cab sedan were stopped in the right-hand lane when the cab was rear-ended by an Advanced Towing truck. The cab was sandwiched between the other two vehicles, causing front- and rear-end damage.
An Arlington couple in their 60s were in the backseat of the cab at the time of the crash, according to Tanvir Ahmed, their son. Ahmed said his mother, who was returning home from cancer treatment at Virginia Hospital Center, suffered a head injury and was bleeding when she was taken via ambulance back to the hospital. His father suffered minor injuries, he said.
All three drivers remained on scene following the wreck. Only minor damage was visible on the rear bumper of the county truck. The tow truck had moderate front-end damage.
So far, there’s no official word from police regarding the cause of the crash. No other injuries were reported.
Arlington’s projected budget gap for Fiscal Year 2015 is between $20 and $25 million, the county manager’s financial forecast shows.
County revenues are expected to increase 2.6 percent to $1.093 billion, thanks largely to higher residential real estate assessments. Residential real estate tax revenue is expected to increase 5.6 percent, while commercial real estate revenue is expected to stay the same or slightly decrease, due to weakness in the office market.
Expenses, meanwhile, are expected to increase, thanks to pay raises for some of the county’s 3,344 full-time employees, a rise in the county’s payment to Metro, and costs associated with new facilities like the year-round homeless shelter and the Long Bridge Park aquatics center.
Total county expenses are projected at $675.6 million, and that assumes cutting the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and pay-as-you-go project financing in half, due to the removal of one-time funds. The county government will face a $7.7 million revenue/expenditure gap.
Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, will see its budget transfer from the county rise 3 percent to $425 million. Still, the school system is expected to face a $16 million budget gap due to a rise in enrollment.
County staff caution that the figures are still preliminary at this point. FY 2015 doesn’t begin until July 1, 2014.
“Current projections rely on incomplete revenue data and preliminary cost estimates,” staff wrote. “Projections will change as more data becomes available and further analysis is completed. Cost estimates could increase and revenue projections could decrease, exacerbating the problem, or estimates could also improve.”
County Manager Barbara Donnellan will present her budget projections to the County Board at its meeting tonight (Tuesday). The Board, in turn, will provide budget guidance to the manager and her staff.
Air Force Officer Found Not Guilty – Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, accused of groping a woman on a Crystal City sidewalk earlier this year, has been found not guilty by an Arlington County jury. Krusinski was the chief of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch of the U.S. Air Force, and his arrest sparked a national conversation about sexual assault in the military. The charge against Krusinski was eventually changed to assault and battery, and Thursday afternoon, after a two-day trial, the jury found that prosecutors “did not present evidence to meet the threshold of reasonable doubt.” [NBC Washington, Washington Post]
Arlington Employees Playing Games on the Job? — An “ABC7 Watchdog investigation” found that employees of several Northern Virginia counties, including Arlington, are doing quite a bit of web browsing and gaming on the job. Arlington employees registered 13,106 hits on gaming sites — including 3,813 for the game Candy Crush and 2,593 for Words With Friends — on a single day in August. Arlington employees also visited YouTube about 3,800 times that day. [WJLA]
Wardian to Run Two Marathons in One Day — Prolific local marathon runner Michael Wardian is aiming to run two marathons in two different states in one day this weekend. Wardian plans on running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio marathon Sunday morning and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon Sunday afternoon. What’s more, his goal is to run each in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes. [Competitor]
Fees May Climb for DCA Taxi Pickups — It may cost a bit more to take a taxi from Reagan National Airport next year. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering a plan to raise the fees collected from taxi drivers that pick up passengers from DCA. The fee hike would raise about $1 million. If approved, the new rates could be in place by next summer. [Washington Post]
Photo courtesy Melissa Shoemaker
Victim, Witnesses Testify During Krusinski Trial — The 23-year-old woman accusing the Air Force’s former sexual assault prevention chief of groping her in May testified about the incident yesterday during the first day of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski’s assault and battery trial. The woman broke down in tears while describing how Krusinski allegedly grabbed her buttocks after he spent the night drinking in Crystal City. Witnesses reported the woman repeatedly punched Krusinski following the alleged groping. One of the witnesses who testified — a transgender woman who goes by Jordain — also reported being groped and propositioned by Krusinski that night. Jordain said Krusinski appeared to be a “happy drunk” and she brushed him off. The trial is expected to last three days. [Stars and Stripes, Military Times]
County Prepares for Winter — No snowflakes have fallen yet, but Arlington County has already launched preparations for the 2013-2014 winter season. The snow removal team includes 92 drivers and 46 trucks that are equipped with plows and salt spreaders. Residents will be able to track the progress of road clearing online, including the ability to check traffic cameras at certain intersections. Residents are asked to clear snow from sidewalks within 24 hours of a storm, per the county’s Snow Removal Ordinance. [Arlington County]
1K Wine and Beer Walk on Sunday — The Washington Wine Academy is hosting its semi-annual 1K Wine and Beer Walk in Crystal City on Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 16-17). Start times will be staggered from 1:00-5:00 p.m. and participants get to sample 22 different types of wine or beer while strolling through the Shops at Crystal City. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online. [Washington Wine Academy]
The Daily Show Takes on VA Election – Last night Jon Stewart and the folks at The Daily Show aired a segment mocking what they portrayed as slim pickings for gubernatorial choices on Virginia’s ballot. The reporter said of Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, “apparently neither candidate is fit to lead.” [The Daily Show]
County Launches Urban Design Speaker Series – Arlington County will kick off its RoundAbouts speaker series on Wednesday, November 13. The series is hosted by the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development and is designed to facilitate discussion about thoughtful design and how to shape Arlington’s future. The first speaker will be Christopher B. Leinberger, a Brookings fellow, developer, researcher and author, who will speak on the topic ”The Urbanization of the Suburbs: Why Arlington is the National Model and Where Do We Go Next.” [Arlington County]
MST3K Night at the Planetarium – A special Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation will take place at the David M. Brown Planeterium (1426 N. Quincy Street) on Saturday, November 16. Attendees will get to poke fun at a comet-themed “B movie” from the 1970s. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $3 for children, $5 for seniors and planetarium members, and $7 for adults. [Friends of the Planetarium]
Initial reports suggest a minivan caught fire on the 4th level of the parking garage at Sequoia Plaza (2100 S. Washington Blvd). The flames have since been extinguished, according to radio traffic.
Sequoia Plaza houses the county’s Dept. of Human Services.
Arlington County offices will be open on Columbus Day (Monday).
County offices and libraries will be open for the federal holiday. ART buses and Metro will run on a holiday schedule. Courts will be closed.
Parking meters will be enforced. Arlington Public Schools and administrative offices will be open, but students will not have class.
Cost of Ashlawn Addition Rises — The Arlington School Board has approved funding for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, though the addition will cost more than originally anticipated. The Board voted 3-2 to approve funding. Those voting ‘no’ were concerned that the cost had ballooned from $14.9 million to $20.4 million. [Sun Gazette]
School Board Addresses FLES Push — School Board Chair Abby Raphael says Arlington Public Schools will eventually roll out its Foreign Language in Elementary School program countywide, but it won’t happen as quickly as some parents are pushing for. Parents at schools without FLES have been speaking out at School Board meetings, calling for it to be introduced as soon as possible. Raphael said APS does not have the resources for FLES at all schools at the moment. [Sun Gazette]
AWLA Takes in Dogs Rescued from Hoarder — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington has taken in five dogs rescued from a hoarding situation near Richmond. One dog is available for adoption now, and the others will be available soon. [WJLA]
County Receives Va.’s First Building Accreditation — Arlington County has been recognized for best practices in building safety and code enforcement. The county has become the first in Virginia to receive accreditation in that area from the International Accreditation Service. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by J Sonder
Two weeks ago, opinion columnist Peter Rousselot wrote that Arlington County should explain its relatively large cash surplus.
Arlington Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz has now responded.
In an op-ed, printed below, Schwartz says there are several reasons why the county government has nearly $300 million cash on hand. Chief among them: to provide a fiscal cushion that helps maintain the county’s high bond rating.
In his August 22, 2013 opinion piece “Peter’s Take,” Peter Rousselot asks, “Is Arlington’s cash surplus too large?” A fair question.
The short answer is “no.”
Residents should know that our balances are higher now than they were 10 years ago for three important reasons:
1. We have increased our reserves. At the urging of the rating agencies that review our finances, we increased our reserves from 2% to 5% of the General Fund balance. This fiscally prudent step provides us a bigger cushion (but still at the low end of what our neighbors do) in case of emergency and shows our commitment to smart budget planning. It also ensures that we maintain our AAA rating from the three national rating agencies. Arlington is one of only 39 counties out of over 3,000 that enjoy this prestigious rating, attesting to our sensible practices.
2. We have many more capital projects and needs in the community. A review of the County’s most recently adopted Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for FY 2013 – 2022 includes considerable investments in building new schools, transportation, water and sewer projects, recreation, fleet, and government services. Each of these investments will maintain and improve the quality of our residential neighborhoods and urban corridors. Prudent budgeting calls for us to build up balances to fund these important projects from pay-as-you go capital (in combination with the sale of bonds). Capital projects require large investments for projects that will last many years and it is typical for cash balances to grow prior to execution of the projects.
3. There are several sources of funds that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. These are:
a. Transportation Capital Fund (12.5-cents of our tax rate paid by commercial property owners) dedicated to invest in our streets, sidewalks, Metro, streetcar, and busses.
b. Stormwater Fund (1.3-cents of our tax rate paid by all taxpayers) dedicated to revitalize our aging infrastructure and to help improve the Chesapeake Bay.
c. Dedicated Development Fund (fees paid by developers and residents who improve their homes) to speed up permit processing and construction services.
d. Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) – in Rosslyn, Crystal City, and Ballston, commercial property owners pay a dedicated tax and the cash is set aside to meet work plans to enhance services in each of these areas.
The Transportation Capital Fund, much of the Development Fund, and BID programs are all commitments made by our business community and not paid for by our residential taxpayers.
A close reading of the details (as posted on the County’s website) shows that the maintenance of operating reserves and a strong liquidity position is critical to the County’s strong bond ratings. Every penny of our cash balances is accounted for, and reviewed annually – not only by our audit staff in the Department of Management and Finance, but also independently assessed by outside auditors.
The statements in our annual review of finances – Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – and countless other documents including Official Statements accompanying bond offers, our annual operating budget and our CIP provide a detailed map to where the money is. These documents are there for all to see, and, as always, we appreciate residents’ interest in County financials and operations. These funds are collected and maintained to support the programs adopted each year in our annual operating budgets, and over the longer term in our CIP.
Deputy County Manager
The county recently asked residents to participate in an online survey to gauge how user-friendly the website is. Arlington has kept its essential blue-and-white color-scheme, but changed the layout of the site to make it easier to navigate for residents and less focused on county government’s hierarchy.
The site will use the open-source content management system WordPress, and is designed to respond to frequent resident tasks — such as paying parking tickets and checking in on building construction — right from the home page.
The typeface is considerably larger than the current website, while there are distinctly fewer items on the homepage, streamlining it for the most common uses. The new design is expected to be implemented by the end of the year.
Screenshot via Arlington County
Metro Accident Victim Identified as GMU Student — The person struck and killed on the Metrorail Orange Line tracks between East Falls Church and Ballston early Sunday morning has been identified as 21-year-old George Mason University student Patrick Sibley. Sibley’s brother says he did not have a good sense of direction and may have become lost after leaving a bar in Clarendon and trying to make it home to Vienna. Metro is not commenting on the incident while it is under investigation. [Washington Post]
McDonnell Touts Budget Surplus — Gov. Bob McDonnell says the state ended its fiscal year on June 30 with $585 million more than projected. That’s the largest state surplus since 2005. The cumulative surplus during McDonnell’s nearly four years in office comes in at around $2 billion. [Washington Times]
County Labor Day Closures — Arlington County has posted a list of programs and services that will remain operational while the county offices are closed for Labor Day on Monday, September 2. Libraries, parks, pools, courts and schools will all be closed. [Arlington County]
The pedestrian who was struck by a county employee in a pickup truck in Crystal City last week remains in the hospital with serious leg and back injuries.
The victim, a Marine Corps Veteran, was struck by a Ford F-350 driven by Linwood Knight, a lift operator for the Department of Environmental Services, police said. According to county Director of Human Resources Marcy Foster, Knight is still employed by the county. The county does not disclose disciplinary action.
Knight was charged at the scene with failure to yield to a pedestrian, Arlington County Police Department spokesman Lt. Mike Watson said. The investigation has concluded and no other charges are pending.
“Unless it’s a death or a serious injury, we don’t call for a criminal investigation,” Watson said.
The victim’s attorney, Bruce Deming, declined to comment on what his client’s next legal steps will be, but he is gathering information in the course of his own investigation. He said the victim’s first name is Carmen, but couldn’t reveal her last name.
Deming posted twice in the comments section of the original article on ARLnow.com requesting those claiming they were at the scene when the accident occurred contact him. He said the last name Cole, which was posted in the comments section, is incorrect.
“She has a terrific attitude and she’s fighting hard,” Deming said, confirming Friday morning that she was still hospitalized. “She’s suffered very significant injuries.”
(Updated on 7/12/13) An Arlington County pickup truck struck a pedestrian in Crystal City this afternoon.
The county-owned Ford F-350 struck a female pedestrian on 12th Street between Army Navy Drive and Long Bridge Drive, according to scanner traffic. The woman was found under the truck and suffered non-life threatening injuries, including a leg and back injury.
The victim was transported to a local hospital. A police investigator took photos of the scene to document the incident. Firefighters were later called to the scene to wash blood from the pavement.
It’s unclear which county agency the truck belongs to. An Arlington County Police spokesman could not be reached for comment.